MORE than two years ago, in my maiden column, I wrote about my journey towards living mindfully. In the column, I expressed my desire to always be in the present so I could focus on living more.
What I meant by living more is to do things that are meaningful to me. For example, sharing more laughter and conversations with those I care about, exploring different places, fresh ideas and meeting new people. I realised that I'd like to do more of those as opposed to spending time doing things I don't enjoy, or accumulating objects I don't really need.
That column was inspired by a blogger I followed, Leo Baubuta. He once wrote that the more he focused on living, the less it seemed he needed. This resonates with how I aspire to live my life.
I wanted to be aware of what I am doing instead of just going along with the popular idea or following what everyone around me was doing. In the past, I tended to operate based on that. I'd do things like going to a sale because everyone I knew was doing it and then ended up with stuff I didn't need, i.e clothes I never wore or books I never read. My mindless shopping created clutter which took a lot of effort and mindfulness de-clutter.
It turns out being mindful is a journey, not a destination. Becoming aware of every little thing I say, do and think about is hard work. It is something that I need to constantly nurture, develop and exercise. Just like a lot of other things in life.
I am still working on being mindful and find some days more challenging than others. Sometimes things happened which threw me completely off balance and made me rethink my journey with living in the moment.
Some time in April last year, my father suffered two consecutive heart attacks within the span of three days. The attacks left him weak and home-bound for several months. A few months later, my mom collapsed at her home and was later diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
For several months, my two sisters and I took turns to look after our parents, dividing our time between Petaling Jaya (where we live) and Muar, Johor where my parents currently reside.
Looking after my strong-headed dad was quite a challenge at the beginning. Especially because he gets easily frustrated, for not being able to move as fast or to do thing the way he's used to. He also tends to vent out his anger and frustration on the people around him. It must have been hard for my independent dad to be in a vulnerable position and having to depend on people around him.
During that period, I found focusing on being in the moment very challenging. Like my father, I too had wanted him to get back on his feet as soon as possible and have our lives back to normal. In fact, I was so caught up with worrying about my dad's health, and became obsessed with his recuperation. It's amazing how our unawareness affected each and became a vicious cycle.
It was very hard for me be in the present at some point. When I was at my parents' place, my mind constantly wondered about how my kids were doing back home. Yet when I was home, I'd worry about my dad's health and how my mum was coping.
I was constantly feeling guilty and it was so exhausting. It took time for me to learn that there was only so much I could do. I slowly pulled myself together and went back to practising what I had set myself out to do more than two years ago, to practise living in the moment.
I decided to begin feeling good about what I am capable of doing and accept what I can't or have no control over.
I also realise that when I am present, I don't have to try hard to look for answers to my concerns. They come to me and sometimes from expected places. Take writing, for example. It's when I am calm and relaxed that ideas come flowing to me. At times, it appears during conversation with friends or even strangers.
As for my dad, he is now back to driving again and has decided not to go through any medical intervention. I have come to embrace his decision and respect his choice. Both my parents are doing well and had chosen to live one day at a time.
I am still exercising living in the moment. Being mindful is very liberating as it frees me up from being affected by my past. It also allows me to let go of my fear of the unknown or of the future.